|Gabriel Bautista (xochipilli) wrote in paxletalelogs,|
@ 2017-10-20 15:12:00
|Entry tags:||freyr, xochipilli|
so take me to the start
Who: Gabe & Rafe.
What: Rafe goes to his boyfriend for support, and together they investigate a new room.
Where: Eighth floor, then fourth floor.
When: Two days following this.
Gabe leaned back from his typewriter, the blank page scrolled in between the tongs a glaring reminder of what he was continuously unable to do. Teeth raked over his bottom lip, and he thought back to his phone squirreled away in the kitchen. Ever since Rafe had told him about the fourth floor and what had transpired there between him, Isobel, and Alice, Gabe had been unable to concentrate on anything other than worry over Rafe's mental state.
He scooted back from his desk, thumbs tapping at the edge of the wood as he debated attempting to push himself a little longer. Then he shook his head, rising, and made his way down the hall to the kitchen. Spot's tags jingled as the dog raised his head at his master's appearance.
"You wanna go for a walk, old man? Maybe we can get anjo to go with us," Gabe said, glancing and smiling at his pet before moving to where he kept his phone in the junk drawer of his kitchen. His heart sank only a little as he saw there were no messages; he took a deep breath, and tapped one out himself.
It was too long before a reply flickered on screen. When it did, it was far too short.
A few minutes passed, unmarked. Then another small chime, followed by a slightly more encouraging response. Can you take a break? I'll make tea.
Across the hall Rafael shuffled through his apartment, feeding his fish and glancing occasionally at his phone. Shadows pooled under his eyes, tender as a bruise. He leaned down over the colorful aquarium that housed Mr. Fishy II, staring into the water and watching the betta's vibrant fins unfurl. He watched the fish's movements, letting himself be lulled into something almost trancelike. He wished such relaxation would naturally lead to sleep. But though he had been exhausted for days, rest had eluded him entirely.
In the kitchen the kettle whistled sharply. Rafael did not seem to notice.
Back in Gabe's apartment, he tapped out a quick affirmative, saying he was on his way. He stuffed the phone, his wallet and keys into his pockets, glancing at Spot. The elderly dog had resumed his position on the floor, large puppy dog eyes pleading the case that he did not in fact need exercise.
"You win this time, old man," Gabe grinned, coming around the divider between his kitchen and living room. He squatted, hands coming under Spot's muzzle to give him a handful of scritches. "I'm gonna go check on anjo, but I'll be back. Don't get into my chocolate stash, OK?" Spot's rumbling sigh seemed to provide an affirmative, and Gabe wasted no more time moving from his apartment to Rafe's.
He knocked to announce himself, but directly on the heels of the sound he was already swinging the door open.
"Anjo?" He stepped inside, closing the door behind him; his brow furrowed at the sound of the kettle whistle. "Anjo, is everything OK?"
"Mm?" Rafe looked up from Mr. Fishy II's tank, blinking to clear the fog from his eyes. He smiled softly as his bleary eyes focused on his friend. "Oh, yes. Fine. I have masala chai or I could make a Cubano if you'd rather have coffee." He started into the kitchen without waiting for an answer. The kettle continued to shriek itself hoarse.
In the kitchen, Rafael took the kettle from the stove's eye, setting it aside. He propped one bony hip against the counter as he rummaged through a basket of teas and coffee beans. "How is the writing going?"
Gabe followed Rafe closely, concern written in every line of his mouth, every glance that went from Rafe's strangely slow and calm gestures to his strangely and overly calm face. His eyes were sunken pools of shadow, and the languid way he moved made Gabe think of a cartoon character moving through molasses.
"It's... It's fine." He drew closer to Rafe, a hand gently reaching out to wrap around a wrist and pull him away from the task of selecting a drink. "Anjo, are you sleeping? You look exhausted. If something's wrong, I want you to tell me."
"I…" The tip of Rafe's tongue flicked out over his lips. He pressed close to Gabe, his bare chest rising and falling with small, shallow breaths. His hands fell to Gabe's waist; Gabe's went to Rafe's upper arms, forever creating a link between them. "Not really. Not since the tent. I have these dreams, and... " He sighed. His gaze fell from Gabriel's to some meaningless point on his shirt. "I haven't really been able to eat, either. So I'm just…" He shrugged, glancing back to the little basket of coffees and teas. He tried for a smile. "Like I said, I'm getting pretty good at making cafe Cubano."
Gabe's mouth returned that smile, albeit one tinged with hesitation.
"Oh, anjo," he finally settled on as the various words rolling through his mind seemed either inadequate or unkind. Hands went up to cup Rafe's face, fingers threading back through the man's hair. "You can't live on just coffee, my love. We should go out, and... I don't know, maybe Panera or just a little shop with some good sandwiches. It's been days, how you're not starving I don't understand...
"For now, though, getting something in you is better than nothing," he added, his eyes falling back to the basket. His hands slid down, landing on Rafe's shoulders, then down to his waist. "I'll take a cafe Cubano...if you'll let me go get a bagel from my apartment." He turned stern eyes on the other man. "Half a bagel to start with, OK?"
Rafael opened his mouth to protest, but closed it just as quickly. He leaned forward, softly kissing Gabriel's cheek. "OK. I promise I've had a few things. Bread, and… um." Color dusted his cheeks. There was nothing else; meat or anything with a remotely similar consistency seemed to stick in his throat, and each time he had tried it, it had only ended in dry heaving over toilets, trash bins, and sinks. He kissed Gabe again, then pulled away, turning back to the basket behind him. He reached for the kettle and a cup, his hands seeking work to focus his sluggish thoughts.
"I'll have it ready before you're back," he promised.
"I'll hold you to that," Gabe replied, finding it more than difficult to leave the other man's side. His hands lingered on Rafe's waist, the small of his back, afraid he was going to start finding that bony young boy he'd known a long time ago; the one who insisted on saving and scrimping every last penny, that meals could be put off for as long as necessary, the one who made him feel as though he weren't doing enough. A smile flickered over his face, an attempt to hide the dark thoughts in his mind, and he finally returned the kiss Rafe had planted on him before quickly disappearing from one apartment to the other.
He shuffled through the bagels for a moment (eventually adding to it cream cheese, before being torn on which flavor of bagel to bring; he eventually settled on plain) and then was back in Rafe's apartment before too long. Moving to the kitchen, he helped himself to a plate and a butter knife, but did not dress the bagel. He carefully hip checked Rafe, holding the plated bagel in one hand. "I held up my half," he teased, wanting the whole scenario to be as normal as it could be.
"And I did mine," Rafe answered, leaning toward Gabe's touch.
An espresso maker sat on the stovetop, still steaming from its recent use. The kettle, forgotten, sat beside it. Rafe's smile was sincere when he turned back to Gabe, a small white cup and saucer held out for his partner. He traded cup for plate, glancing almost nervously down to the dry bagel. He turned away quickly, hoping against hope Gabriel had not noticed the anxiety on his face. He pulled his own cup and the toaster a bit closer to himself, popping one half of the bagel inside. Perhaps crunchy and dry it wouldn't stick so thoroughly in his throat. He put a smile on his face before he turned back to Gabe, and raised his small cup, clicking it against Gabe's in toast.
"So," Rafe said, after a bracing sip of his coffee. "What did I do to deserve a house call?"
Gabe shrugged, the movement tiny as he remained in Rafe's orbit. There was something wrong, something telegraphed by Rafe's movements and the fact that he was hiding his face, that Gabe couldn't entirely decipher, but he chose to not press the issue. He sipped at his coffee—delicious, always whenever Rafe was involved—a gently put a hand to Rafe's hip.
"By being you, duh," he offered teasingly, leaning against the counter while they waited for Rafe's bagel to toast. His hand moved to the small of Rafe's back. "I don't need a reason to come see you. And with everything going on, I'm having trouble concentrating, so..." He shrugged. "If I'm going to have writer's block, I might as well come spend it with you."
He went quiet for a moment. "Though now you've got me worried that I should be spending more time with you, because this definitely isn't healthy, anjo."
Rafael shook his head. He set his cup aside after another generous sip, then reached for the bagel that had less than neatly ejected itself. He ignored the crumbs that collected on the countertop, instead focusing on meticulously spreading a thin layer of cream cheese atop the browned crust.
"I won't turn down more time with you," he said, trying and failing for a teasing lilt in his tone. "But I'm—" Fine, he had very nearly said, but the word stuck in his throat as painfully as anything he had attempted to eat of late. He shook his head. Nervous fingers tore at the bagel, ripping small, hopefully edible chunks from its surface. "What if these keys don't go away like the other things have? What if Abel's not gone, he's just hiding in one of these rooms? He'd fit right in."
Once he began, exhaustion made sure he could not stop himself. Words tripped over themselves, blurred as much as his mind felt. "He invited us in, Gabe. We ate that. He knew what it was and just sat there, letting us eat—" He pressed the heel of his palm against his eye, so hard he saw stars sparking behind his eyelid. "Where else do those keys go? Are those places here? Are we standing in that tent now, and just can't see it?"
Gabe paled, listening, trying to find a spot to interrupt, and then it seemed like some dam had been broken inside the other man; English turned into Portuguese, Gabe only catching every other word as his fluency with the language had dulled. One hand went to Rafe's wrist, taking the butter knife from him, pushing the bagel away as the poorly-intended peace offering that it had been. He pulled Rafe toward him, making shushing noises, trying to calm the other man as much as he could.
"Anjo, anjo, just... breathe." He took Rafe's hands, holding him gently by the wrists, and brought them up to his face. "You feel this? Me? I'm real, all of this is real, and I just... Need you to breathe, OK?" Teeth scraped over his bottom lip as he groped for more words, something that would soothe this aching wound in his anjo.
"I went in one. With Obed. They're... they're like the dreams, anjo, they're only here when we let them be." He paused, studying Rafe's face, trying to judge how well he was getting through to him.
It was precisely what he had told Isobel, and yet now, turned on himself and his own rising panic, Rafael could not let himself believe it. He did not let go of Gabe, as though the rough scratch of his beard and the warmth of his skin were the only things keeping him upright.
"How?" His voice broke. His eyes burned, as though tears wanted to come, but he was stretched far too thin for even that. "How? I didn't let him butcher babies. I didn't want that. I can't control this and neither can you. Neither can anyone here. Why did you go in one, gato? You shouldn't have done that. You don't know what they are. You don't know who's in there."
"Rafe." Gabe sighed, and pulled the other man into his arms. His grip was tight, muscles shaking from the desire to shake sense directly into Rafe's mind. He let a few moments pass, where he hoped the silence was helping to clear away the other man's worries that had tightened over their environment like smog. Slowly Rafael's breathing evened out; there was tension in his bare shoulders and in the tight plane of his back, but it seemed to ease the longer Gabriel held him. Still he held his silence, listening to the steady beating of Gabe's heart.
"Obed invited me. After what you told me, I was curious. I wanted to know, so I could help you better." A hand came up and stroked the back of Rafe's head. "We couldn't control it, not when we were inside the room. We could only control what we did, anjo. And it was...it was amazing, what we saw."
"Amazing," Rafael echoed. "I…" He shook his head, thick locks of dark curls brushing beneath Gabe's chin. He sighed. His shoulders sagged. "OK. So maybe they're not all… that. The tent." He shuddered. "Does that change anything? How do we know there aren't more terrible ones than good? How do we know we're safe here?"
Gabe's mouth opened, and then clicked shut. There was no way he could provide that kind of security, not with the way the building was around them; and yet the building itself had never directly harmed them, only the people in it. The hand in Rafe's hair started down his back, feeling out each ridge of spinal column as the other man bent into him.
"Maybe we should go find out." The words were just as much of a surprise to him as they likely were to Rafe. "We're only as safe as we allow ourselves to be, anjo. I promise I'll do everything I can to take care of you. I can't... As much as I want to promise you that you'll always be safe, I can't. No one can. But I'm here. OK? I'm here, and I'm going to stay here.
"If you want, you could come spend the night, or however long, you want at my place? Or I can come over here, with Spot. He misses you, you know. Talks about you all the time." He grinned, pressing his nose into the crown of Rafe's head.
Rafe laughed into the fabric of Gabriel's shirt; his fingers wrapped tightly into the cloth, scratching at warm skin beneath. "Sure. I… you don't mind?" He pulled away, but only just, keeping Gabe's hands close. "Just for a night or two. I just need a couple of nights of good sleep…" He turned in Gabriel's arms, reaching for the cooling coffee now behind him.
"I could go," he said, his voice small. "If you come with me, I'll try one more. OK?"
Gabe nodded, quickly tempering the gesture to not seem overexcited. "Yes. To both. But you have to eat your bagel first, and I want to finish my coffee. And then we'll go. Together." He made no move to remove his hands or push Rafe toward the aforementioned food item, instead all too comfortable in the position they'd found themselves in. As Rafe brought the coffee to his lips, Gabe found himself settling his chin on Rafe's shoulder, trying to stay as much out of the way as he could while the other man moved.
"I never mind, anjo," he said, watching the light from a nearby window play over the planes of Rafe's familiar face. "I'll keep saying it until you get it. I have movies for days that will put you to sleep, and I rest better knowing you are, too."
Rafe smiled, nodding gently to keep Gabe's chin carefully in place. He leaned back against his friend, more comfortable in that easy embrace than he had been in days. Each bite he took was small, but they stayed down when he swallowed. The rest of their breakfast passed in quiet calm, and with Gabe by his side, Rafael steeled himself for what was to come.